Beef does not a burger maketh. Peter Cornish tucks into five delicious yet totally different non-meat burger options from some of Ho Chi Minh City’s most creative chefs. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
Pop Up Franchise
Royal Purple – VND80,000 (veggie/vegan): The Royal Purple by Pop Up Franchise was launched just a couple of months ago in co-operation with Chef Ale Sorti from Organik House, so you know it’s going to be full of delicious veggie goodness!
As part of PUF’s Bite Me burger range, the Royal Purple is a vegan burger with the choice of going veggie by adding an egg or cheese, or both. A multi-layered burger, the patty itself is roasted beetroot, caramelised before blending, and with crunchy texture introduced by adding roasted peanuts. There is no egg used to bind it and breadcrumbs are used to pull the ingredients together.
Home-made non-steamed buns hold the patty in place, smothered with a home-made curry ketchup and a frisee salad that adds some bitterness but which is complemented by raw onion and the mildest hint of sugar. On top of this the succulent red patty sits, smothered in vegan mayonnaise and a roasted corn garnish below a top sauce of black mayonnaise made from black sesame seeds. This adds a nutty flavour, complementing the roasted peanuts in the patty.
PUF is a community based project where brands come together as pop up events at different venues around town. They are currently at Casba on Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, where they present Vicolo1 pizza, Bite Me Burgers and Filipino Kitchen.
They will soon be launching LuvGrub, a vegetarian burger and pizza pop-up where a percentage of their proceeds will be donated to local community groups and charities.
37 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City
Mad Cow Wine and Grill
Vegan Burger – VND250,000+ (vegan): Mad Cow Wine and Grill is the sort of place you head to when you fancy an over-sized steak and a bottle of red, but when you learn that Chef Danny Grimshaw’s wife is vegan, you start to understand why there might be a veggie burger on the menu.
Opened a few short months ago, Mad Cow’s menu was built from scratch and, in need of some balance, Chef Danny shied away from the usual half-arsed pasta dish for the veggie option and chose to go all-out on a vegan burger worthy of its name. This is a substantial burger and a proper feed. Served on a large home-made ciabatta bun, vegan with no egg, the patty is made from dried chickpeas and lentils, blended with herbs, garlic and chilli and passes the ‘fall apart’ test. A layer of home-made hummus, deliciously seasoned, sits between the bun and the patty which is then smothered in rich, creamy cashew cheese sourced locally from the Kashew Cheese Company.
The burger is topped with a slaw of red cabbage, shallots, coriander and lime juice and yet more hummus, then closed in the bun and garnished with a half pickle. On the side is a generous portion of hand-cut French fries and a mildly spicy tomato chutney, the mustard seeds, cumin and turmeric giving it a distinctively Indian taste.
Not the sort of place you’d expect to find a vegan burger, but with the city’s growing vegetarian scene, it’s proving a popular choice.
Level 30, 148 Tran Hung Dao Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Mad House Veggie Burger – VND225,000+ (veggie not vegan): Founded in 2015 by a couple of dedicated foodies from Denmark, Mad House has become known for its northern European style of honest, unpretentious comfort food as much as its homely yet stylish environment.
Working with fresh, locally sourced ingredients Chef Christian Milling rustles up no-nonsense food that welcomes customers from morning breakfast to evening dinner, with plenty served up in-between. The food is simple, but well-made and without compromise, affordable quality fare. And that’s certainly the case with their veggie burger. Baking of their 60-gram bun is outsourced but made with specially produced flour giving the soft, light bun more taste than normally expected. On top of the bun is spread a generous layer of cashew pesto, blended with parsley and hard Parmesan and offering a distinct twist to the burger.
The patty is made from chickpeas, soaked overnight then cooked with garlic and thyme and blended with parsley, chives, salt and pepper and a small amount of egg. What makes this patty distinct from others is that it is cooked from frozen so is crisp on the outside yet soft and succulent in the middle. This helps keep the shape of the burger throughout eating, something that is often lacking with vegetarian burgers.
On top of the patty sits a gratinated slice of mature cheddar, accompanied by slices of fresh avocado. Next comes a layer of in-house pickled carrots and shallots topped with chilli cheese, spiced with chilli sauce and mango and closed with the top of the bun. The burger is served with a large bucket of thickly cut fries, accompanied by a delicious aioli dipping sauce.
6/1/2 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City
The Jackson 5 – VND185,000+ (veggie not vegan): The Jackson 5 is a substantial burger, presented open and partially deconstructed, which is a good thing given the size. During our chat, we learn that Chef Rueben Fahnestock is a stickler for detail and quality – if the ingredients, delivered fresh daily, don’t pass muster then they are not used. It’s as simple as that.
The pretzel bun is soft and light, delivered each morning by a local baker who prepares them to Chef Gabe Boyer’s original recipe. On top of this sits the patty, prepared daily and made from black beans soaked overnight and then cooked the following morning.
Once dried, they are passed through a meat grinder that is never used for meat, and mixed with roasted sweetcorn and red bell pepper to give that south-of-the-border taste. The mix is then seasoned with the Mexican trinity of paprika, coriander and cumin, plus a few secret ingredients to create the consistency and feel of a beef burger.
On top of the patty sits a melted slice of imported cheddar, standard for the burgers here, and a layer of fresh avocado that provides a creamy compliment to the Mexican spiciness of the burger. The burger is topped off with some of Chef Gabe’s super-secret salsa verde, a blend of green tomatoes, spring onions, bell peppers and some spicy green chili and coriander.
The burger is presented with lettuce, tomato and onion on the side, which can be used to create a final layer or eaten separately. It’s also accompanied by a side salad and some deliciously sweet pickles made in-house. This is a juicy, succulent burger with a distinctly Mexican taste, served on a soft, slightly chewy bun that breaks off easily with each bite. This is a messy one, make sure there are napkins to hand!
4 Phan Boi Chau Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
The Convent Bar
Lotus Seed Falafel Burger – VND99,000+ (veggie not vegan): The Convent is a new contemporary space in the heart of the city with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Their impressive menu focuses on a fusion of Western cuisine, brought to life by the culinary skills of Chef Mathieu Villeneuve and his staff, and served with a choice of craft beer and signature cocktails.
Now in the process of developing a new menu for the restaurant, Chef Mathieu honed his culinary skills throughout Europe and Asia, cooking at Michelin-starred restaurants in France and as private chef for the Finnish Ambassador in Korea. Trained at a prestigious culinary school in France, he blends theoretical knowledge with real-life, hands-on experience to create exceptional food for his customers. This includes his veggie burger.
The falafel patty sits on a home-made bun following the recipe of his predecessor, and using a unique blend of flour mixed in-house to produce a light, spongy, slightly chewy bun that breaks easily with every bite. Atop of this sits a layer of French vegetables, carrot, cabbage and crispy Romaine lettuce, prepared daily with fresh, locally sourced vegetables.
The lotus seed falafel patty is seasoned with spring onion, paprika, chilli and coriander with just a hint of salt, then lightly fried to keep the edges crisp and in shape and the centre smooth and consistent. Once in place it is smothered with hummus and topped with tabbouleh dressed in olive oil, yellow lemon, fresh mint and coriander that compliments the Middle Eastern feel to the falafel patty.